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Common Sense and the Right of Public Access– Allmansrätten

 

Stänna Island

 

You rely on the Right of Public Access whenever you go out in the Swedish countryside – whether it is to take a walk, go kayaking, climb a mountain or just sit down on a rock to think. The Right of Public Access is a unique institution. It gives us all the freedom to roam the countryside. But we must also take care of nature and wildlife, and we must show consideration for landowners and for other people enjoying the countryside. In other words: Don’t disturb – don’t destroy

 

Hiking & Skiing
You can walk or ski pretty much anywhere in the countryside. The exceptions are to ensure that you do not disturb and do not destroy. You must respect the privacy of others, and you may not cross or intrude upon private property. People who live close to natural areas have the right to enjoy their homes undisturbed. This is why you must not walk or ski across the grounds of a house.
Do not walk over cultivated ground: cultivated ground mainly refers to gardens, plant nurseries, park plantations and similar sensitive areas. You must not cross the grounds of a house or cultivated ground at any time, whether or not there is a risk of damage to the ground or vegetation.

 

Cycling
You may cycle across country and on private roads. However, be sure not to ride across the grounds of a house, on cultivated land or on ground that is easily damaged.
They should not be made to feel intruded on. You must not cycle across cultivated ground, including gardens, plant nurseries, park plantations, forestry plantations and similar areas. You must also keep away from other sensitive land such as growing crops.
Cycling is allowed on private roads. Landowners cannot put up signs prohibiting cycling.
Right route, right style: When cycling off the road, make sure you choose a route and a cycling style that will avoid unnecessary damage to the ground. Tyres with coarse treads can easily damage paths and sensitive ground. You can avoid this by cycling and choosing your route with care.
A few tips:

  • Keep off unmade paths, especially in the spring and autumn when the ground tends to be wet
  • Keep away from sensitive ground such as lichen and moss-covered soil and rock, spongy meadows, bogs and fens
  • Adapt your cycling style to ground conditions
  • There is no general ban on cycling along jogging or hiking trails, but remember that they are intended for people on foot. You must ride slowly and give way to any joggers or walkers you may meet.

 

Hunting and fishing
The Right of Public Access does not cover hunting or fishing. However, it does affect them in important ways, since hunting and fishing are among Sweden’s most popular leisure activities. Over 320,000 Swedes engage in recreational hunting and 1 million in fishing.
Free sport fishing
Swedish citizens may fish without a licence in public waters. Foreign citizens may fish without a licence in those waters as long as they use hand gear.
Sport fishing without a licence is also allowed in certain private waters along the coasts and in Sweden’s five largest lakes—the Vänern, the Vättern, the Mälaren, the Hjälmaren and the Storsjön (in Jämtland).
Fishing in other private waters is only allowed with a licence or other permit. Fishing with nets, trolling (with or without motor), tip-up fishing and the like are not permitted without a licence.

 

Dogs
Dogs are of course welcome in the countryside. However, dog owners must observe strict rules in order to protect wildlife.
Between 1 March and 20 August dogs must not be allowed to run loose in the countryside. In the words of the Hunting Act, dogs must be ‘restrained from running loose in grounds where there is game’. The Swedish EPA understands this provision to mean that the only way to prevent a dog from running loose is to keep it on a leash.
The purpose of the provision is to protect wild creatures when they are at their most vulnerable, i.e. the birthing or hatching season. The ‘grounds’ referred to in the Act are virtually all natural lands, including large parks and the like.
Dogs must be under full control at all times. Even at other times of the year dogs must be kept under close enough control to prevent them from harassing wildlife. A dog running loose in the countryside may be tied up by the person who holds the hunting rights to the land (usually the landowner), or by a person acting for him or her.
If the dog cannot be caught it risks being shot. The same fate may befall a dog running loose among cattle if it shows a tendency to bite.
In reindeer husbandry areas, dogs that are not used for reindeer herding must be kept on a leash. The same applies while reindeer are being moved from place to place.

 


Compulsory leashing in national parks…
In some cases leashing is simply compulsory, with no exceptions allowed. Dogs must be leashed in national parks, and in some of them dogs are not allowed at all. Each natural park has its own regulations which lay down what is allowed in that particular area. Dogs must be leashed in most nature reserves, particularly those with vulnerable wildlife or many visitors. Read the notice boards at the entrance, or ask the county administrative board or municipality.

 


Lighting fires
You may light a fire in the country if conditions are safe. But while a campfire adds to the outdoor ambience, it is a cause of concern to landowners: every year much valuable forest goes up in flames due to carelessness with campfires.
It is important that you choose a place for your campfire where there is no risk of it spreading or causing damage to soil and vegetation. Gravel or sandy ground is best.
Moss, peat bogs and humus-rich forest soils are less suitable. Not only is the fire more likely to spread, but it can smoulder unnoticed in the ground and then flare up again later.
Do not build a fire on or next to rock! The heat will crack the rock, causing disfiguring scars that will never heal.
You may gather fallen cones, twigs and branches for your fire. But you must not cut down trees or shrubs or remove twigs, branches or bark from living trees. Fallen trees must not be used for fuel.

 


Frequent fire bans
County administrative boards and municipal fire and rescue services (fire brigades) may issue fire bans in dry weather or at other times of high fire danger. No fires at all may be lit in the open while a fire ban is in force, not even in purpose-built fireplaces.
Even during a fire ban you may use a charcoal grill or a small camp stove with an open flame provided you are careful.
Special rules for national parks and nature reserves : National parks and nature reserves have special rules on lighting fires. There may be a total ban, or fires may be permitted in purpose-made fireplaces only.

 

Camping – tents
You may pitch your tent for a night or two in the countryside as long as you don’t disturb the landowner or cause damage to nature. It is important that you find a site that is well away from people’s houses and not on farmland. Choose hardy ground to pitch your tent, and avoid land used for grazing or for growing crops.
Large groups must obtain the landowner’s permission: It is within the Right of Public Access to pitch two or three tents for a night or two. But a large group of people pitching large numbers of tents can cause problems with sanitation and damage to the ground. The landowner’s permission must be obtained in such cases.
In national parks and nature reserves there are special rules which may restrict the Right of Public Access. Tents are generally not allowed except in designated camping sites. In some areas tents are banned altogether.
Tents banned in some recreation areas: Most municipalities have regulations about camping. The pitching of tents in places like parks or sports grounds may be banned. In general, camping that is allowed under the Right of Public Access is not restricted, but tents may be banned in outdoor recreation areas.

 

Swimming, boating, and driving on ice
The Right of Public Access applies both on land and water. You can swim, sail almost anywhere, moor your boat and spend a night or two on board. The same rules for consideration of your surroundings apply as on land: don’t disturb – don’t destroy!
The Right of Public Access is under increasing pressure in Sweden’s archipelagos and along its shorelines. Efforts to boost archipelago tourism are having an impact, pleasure craft with sleeping accommodation have multiplied, and kayaking in the archipelagos is quickly gaining popularity.
Practise good seamanship: Under the Swedish Maritime Code, persons travelling by water must show consideration for their surroundings. As a boater you must practise good seamanship and know the rules and regulations that apply to the waters you are in.
Not too near to houses: You may go ashore, swim, cast anchor and temporarily moor a boat off the shore, provided it is not within the grounds of a house or part of a bird sanctuary or other nature sanctuary. The grounds of a house are the area immediately surrounding a house, where the occupants should be left undisturbed. It is the risk of causing disturbance that determines how close to a house you may go.
There is no rule that lays down a minimum distance. Nor is there any rule to say how long you may lie at anchor in the same place, but normally the same principle applies as with camping, that is, a day or two. What matters is the risk of causing disturbance to owners or occupants.
Ask the owner’s permission: Before you spend a longer period at anchor or moored off someone else’s shore you need to ask the landowner’s permission. To keep a houseboat moored off a shore—even if it is your own property—you may need an exemption from the shoreline protection rules. You apply to the local municipality for this.
There is nothing to stop you mooring a boat for a while or taking a swim off a jetty provided it does not adjoin grounds of a house. Obviously you must not obstruct the owner of the jetty if they wish to use it.

 

Special rules for protected areas
In protected areas there may be special rules that restrict the Right of Public Access:

  • National parks and nature reserves may have rules on lighting fires, pitching tents and mooring boats.
  • Protected shoreline areas may have similar rules if they are required to protect sensitive wildlife or plants or to avoid negative impacts from intensive outdoor activities.
  • In the case of bird and seal sanctuaries you are not permitted to go ashore or to approach within a certain distance of the shore at certain times of the year.
  • These restrictions are shown by signs bearing yellow or red-and-yellow designs; the design indicates the period when the restrictions apply. There may be restrictions at other times too.

 

Other rules

  • Under the Navigation Ordinance the county administrative board may issue regulations on boat traffic, including speed limits and restrictions on water-skiing.
  • You must not operate a personal watercraft (‘jet-skis’) except in areas designated by the county administrative board and in public navigation channels.
  • There may be restrictions on access within military protected areas. Apart from this, foreign citizens are now free to visit military protected areas on the same terms as Swedish citizens.
  • Before transporting a canoe or other equipment away from waters infected with crayfish pest you must dry and disinfect your equipment. The county administrative board can provide information about infected waters.

 

For more information see www.allemansratten.se


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